WHEN CALLS THE HEART
by Eric Elder
Note from Eric: Sorry for the delay in today’s message, as I was traveling home from Vancouver all day without an Internet connection to post this message until now. Hope you still enjoy it, especially for fans of Hallmark’s series When Calls The Heart!
In this photo: Makari and me with actors Daniel Lissing (“Jack”) and Erin Krakow (“Elizabeth”), Mamie Laverock (“Rosaleen”) and Mitchell Kummen (“Gabe”), and Jesse Hutch (“Luke” on Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove)
My daughter Makari and I met this weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, to be on the set and meet the cast and crew of Hallmark’s television series When Calls The Heart. I’d like to share some pictures with you from the weekend and encourage you to trust God with your whole heart. As I told some of the cast and crew, for me this isn’t just a TV show. It’s a weekly boost in my faith that heals, inspires and touches my heart in a deep, deep way. And that’s no accident.
Fourteen years ago, I sent an email to Brian Bird, one of the co-executive producers of the show (along with Michael Landon, Jr), back when Brian was writing and producing another TV series called Touched By An Angel. Touched was one of the few TV shows we could watch together as a family, just like When Calls The Heart is now. And that was no accident either.
Brian and the others involved in the production of both of these shows wanted to create high quality, uplifting shows that inspired faith in the hearts of viewers, rather than denigrating it. I wrote to Brian fourteen years ago because I wanted to express my sincere thanks for the show. It wasn’t just a show to distract us from our lives; it was a show that helped us to live our lives better. Like going to church, the show gave us a weekly boost in our faith and the hope to go on through its very real and very practical messages, on topics ranging from death to forgiveness to building better relationships.
But to tell my story properly, I really have to back up to two weeks before I wrote to Brian Bird fourteen years ago, as I didn’t even know he existed then. What was really on my heart was that I wanted to write a letter to Martha Williamson, the executive producer of Touched By An Angel. I had just finished reading a book by her, in which she told why she latched onto the show in the first place, and how she shaped it to be so faith-inspiring. I was so thankful for her tenacity to take on this project, that I wanted to write her a sincere letter of thanks.
But I had never written to a television exec before. How would I find her? How would I get a letter through to her? And what were the chances that she would ever see it at all, given all the other fan mail they must receive every day? I didn’t have time to write a heartfelt letter that no one would ever read. More than likely, I thought, my letter would probably just end up as some statistic showing that one more viewer liked their show. I had much more to say than that, and it wasn’t worth my time if my letter would just end up as a checkmark on some tally sheet for a busy executive.
I already had about 1,000 emails in my own inbox that were still awaiting responses, some for several months, and I felt obligated to take care of those before I sat down to write to Martha Williamson. I told myself if I got my inbox down to zero, I would write a letter to her.
To my surprise, two weeks later I finished answering every email that was in my inbox, plus the new ones that came in during those two weeks, plus the new ones that came as responses to my responses. My inbox was showing the rare (and never-to-be-repeated) number of emails as “zero.” Having achieved that miraculous goal, I decided to write a letter to Martha Williamson.
So I did. I spent the rest of the day trying to think of how best to communicate my sincere thanks. By Friday afternoon, I was finished with my letter. The next question was going to be how to get it to her. But I was worn out and decided to wait till the next week to figure out that part.
On Saturday night, our family watched Touched By An Angel once again, and once again we were moved to tears and greater faith by the story that we saw.
On Sunday morning, I got an email from one of the subscribers on my mailing list who gets my weekly messages. He asked if I could change his email to a new address so he could keep getting our messages. My wife was looking over my shoulder as I was going through my emails and noticed that his name was “Al Lowry.”
“Al Lowry?” she said. “Wasn’t that the name of the dad in last night’s episode of Touched by an Angel?”
I remembered his name, too, because “LOWRY” was written in bold letters on the back of the daughter’s basketball jersey in one of the scenes.
I said, “Yeah, I think it was.”
So I wrote to “Al Lowry” and told him I changed his email address, then I added that it was funny because he had the same name as the character on Touched by an Angel that we had seen the night before.
Al wrote back to say that it was funny because the guy who wrote that episode was in his small group at his church and had used Al’s name as the character name in the show!
What?!?! I couldn’t believe it! I did a quick search on the Internet to find the name of the writer, Brian Bird, and discovered he was not only a writer, but was also a co-producer–right alongside Martha Williamson!
Here I had been praying about how to get a letter to Martha Williamson to thank her for the show, and was reluctant to even write the letter because I thought she would never read it! But here was a way to be sure it got into her hands!
I told Al what I had been trying to do and asked if he could pass along my letter to Brian. He said he would, and Brian said he’d pass it along to Martha Williamson!
Brian then wrote back to me and asked if I could send my letter to the network also, as they were in the midst of trying to decide whether or not to renew the show for another season. Brian said that they gave serious consideration to letters like mine from viewers, so he sent me the addresses where I could also send my letter. A few weeks later, I learned that the show had been renewed for one more season, and another twenty-some episodes.
Did my letter make any difference? I can’t say for sure. But I know that God had put it on my heart to write it, so I did my part. Then He did His part and put it in the hands of someone who could do something with it. Praise God! Whatever the reason, my family and I, and millions of others, were able to enjoy the show every week for another year, along with millions of others who were also touched by Touched.
In the years that followed, Al Lowry became a good personal friend of mine, shortly thereafter joining our ministry as a member of our board of directors. I continued to correspond with Brian, who was, and still is, a tremendous inspiration to me in my own writing, as we both continue to do our best to touch people with high quality, uplifting and faith-affirming messages.
Although I’ve kept in touch with Brian over the years by email, Facebook and phone, this weekend was the first time we ever met face-to-face! Brian had invited my daughter and me to a special event he had put together for a small group of fans and friends of When Calls The Heart, as she is going into acting, too. It was a total blast.
In this photo: Makari and me with executive producers Brian Bird (and his wife Patty) and Michael Landon, Jr., director Neill Fearnley and writers Derek Thompson and Robin Bernheim.
In one sense, meeting Brian in person wasn’t a big deal, as we had been conversing for the past fourteen years. But in another sense, meeting him in person WAS a big deal, as the seeds of our growing friendship–and the mutual encouragement that we’ve gained–were planted so many years ago. That one small act of following through with what God had put on my heart has yielded numerous benefits not only for me and Brian and Al, but for all those who are touched by the work we’ve all been able to do, both apart and together. Who knows what might happen from here?
As for me, I’m glad I trusted God and did what He put on my heart to do all those years ago and all along the way.
What about you? Is there something God is putting on your heart to do today? Listen to His call, give it a chance, then follow through and see what God might do with it. Trust God from the bottom of your heart, and let Him take care of the rest.
As the Bible says:
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
He’s the one who will keep you on track.”
(from Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message Bible)
P.S. If you’ve never seen When Calls the Heart, you can catch up with Seasons 1 and 2 online or on DVD. Then start watching Season 3, here in the States, on Sunday nights starting February 21st!
Click to get Season 1 from Amazon
Click to get Season 2 from Amazon
Click to get the premiere of Season 3 on Amazon